Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Genuine Encounter With Christ

“...he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

For forty hours this past week, people filed in and out of our chapel to pray. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration as our parish committed 40 hours to give thanks for our 40th anniversary and to pray for our parish and each other. We never had less than 20 people even in the overnight hours on Thursday night. When I gave Benediction on Friday night to end the 40 Hour Devotion, there were over 100 people in the chapel. I was in awe at how many people were always present in the chapel and the profound silence and intensity that accompanied their prayer. The faithful came to have a genuine encounter with the Lord and to throw themselves at the feet of the Master just like the woman in today’s gospel. She barged into the house of the Pharisee and clung to the Lord. Everyone else merely observed this spectacle. Only the woman had a true encounter with Christ.

So it is with us. So many times we are observers when it comes to our faith. We sit in the pews and observe what’s going on without offering a genuine prayer. I must confess this happened to me this week during the 40 hours. I would go into the chapel and sit or stand in the back, but it wasn’t until I spent a good hour sitting in the second row with all distractions behind me and focused intently on the Eucharist that I truly entered into prayer. It is so very hard to enter into silent prayer because we are used to noise all around us, but once you engage the Master, once he captures your short attention, like this woman, you don’t want to let go. It was getting close to Midnight, and I was kneeling staring at the Monstrance. The clock out of the corner of my right eye told me that I had to get up to go prepare for Benediction, but I didn’t want to get up. I had one of those Simon Peter “it is good that we are here” moments. But time to go always comes when we encounter Christ because he sends us forth to spread his presence to others. He tells the women at the end of the gospel the same words we will hear at the end of Mass today: “go in peace.”

We go in peace to share the presence of the living Christ and to share his love and mercy. There are so many who long to have the experience this woman had with the Lord, the experience so many of our brothers and sisters had over those 40 hours, but who will invite them? Who will bring them to the feet of the Master? It is up to us. For 40 years this parish has been a place of refuge, of comfort, of peace, of mercy. Yet there is always room for improvement when it comes to the spiritual life until we attain perfection in heaven. This morning Pope Francis tweeted: “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope where everyone is welcomed, loved, and forgiven.” This is the Church that the Holy Father wants. And on this Father’s Day, as your spiritual father, this is the church I want for my people as we celebrate four decades of true love. Let everyone who walks through those church doors feel welcomed, loved, and forgiven so that they may have a true encounter with the Lord like this woman, and then forgiven and freed, that they too may go in peace to help bring others back to this holy place where our Lord waits with his arms wide open.